Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
That statement has been on my mind a lot lately. I have come to a juncture in my life that I never expected. I'm 50 and I thought that by this time I would be near the apex of my career, respected, consulted, and getting ready for the long final cruise toward retirement. Instead I find myself unemployed. I'm at zero and not quite sure where to turn. I have been feeling restless with the idea of returning to the classroom, to what I've always done. I feel my strengths could lead in several directions, but where exactly?
John Eldridge speaks of the need of the male heart to face and overcome risk-- run the rapids, climb a peak, dive from a high cliff. I ask myself if this isn't tied up with the reason for me being placed in this situation. I'm not one to thirst after risk and dancing out on the end of a limb, far from it-- I've always avoided risk like the plague. But maybe it's time I faced my fears head on and conquered the troll under the bridge. What concerns me so much that I would take on major risk? One thing I care deeply about is the natural world God has created and our need to be good stewards of it. Ever since my wife and I bought our house in 1992, I have rediscovered the beauty of gardening. It was another hot, sweaty chore to be endured when I was younger, but I learned what a great pleasure it is to turn the earth, enrich it, sow seeds, and reap the results. I've become passionate about composting and organic gardening, just like my parents were all my growing up years. I truly delight in taking kitchen waste and returning it to the earth, where it will feed the soil ecosystem and eventually me and my family. I worry about the fact that we as a culture casually discard so much, dump it into a landfill (a glorified gigantic diaper, when you think abut it), where it either leaches toxins or produces smelly methane gas to further warm the planet. Tackling this problem is something that truly makes me come alive. The question I face is-- Can I find some way to help heal the earth, and make a living at it?
Two aphorisms have been on my lips a lot lately:
1) It's not waste until you waste it.
2) Waste is a resource in the wrong place.
How can I turn what no one wants into something good and positive that everyone could benefit from? The answer I've found myself turning back to again and again: vermiculture. No, wait, that's the fancy knockout word. Let's get blunt: worms. Yes, slimy, blind, deaf little hermaphroditic invertebrates that eat dirt. Let me explore my idea at greater depth in a later post. Instead I'll end here with another quotation from Wild at Heart, from the poetry of Edgar Lee Masters:
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me--
A boat with a furled sail at rest in the harbor
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life
For love was offered me, and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one's life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire--
It is the boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.